New 'patriotic' textbook justifies Stalin rule in Russia

29th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Controversy is sparked from a new textbook honoring Russian patriotism but also justifying arrests, deportations and executions of the Soviet era.

Moscow -- A new history textbook in Russia justifies the Soviet-era mass arrests and executions of the 1930s, but its supporters say the book is filled with patriotism and love of the Motherland.

The textbook, whose cover showcases the golden-domed Kremlin -- the seat of Russian tsars as well as modern leaders -- sparked controversy with critics calling it a pro-Stalinist and anti-Semitic view of Soviet and Russian history.

A History of Russia, 1917-2009, written by two Moscow State University academics Alexander Barsenkov and Alexander Vdovin, attempts to justify Stalin-era repressions by including the Gulag camp system, the deportation of entire ethnic groups and forced collectivisation.

Describing the mass arrests and executions of the 1930s, the authors write that the authorities had a justified fear of enemies within the Soviet Union.

"All those millions of people offended by the policies of the Soviet authorities formed a potential for a 'fifth column' that was far from imaginary," they wrote.

The textbook also attempts to rationalise the Stalin-ordered deportations including the Crimean Tatars, Chechens, Ingushs and Kalmyks to Siberia and Central Asia.

"The reason that some were deported was their heightened readiness to collaborate with the occupiers and suspicions of this," it claims, a theory rejected by Western historians and many Russian experts.

The textbook places strong emphasis on the number of Jewish people who held positions of power in Soviet culture and media. It alleges that the Soviet authorities blocked Jewish people from occupying top posts after World War II because of "the growing pro-Western sympathies of citizens of Jewish origin, which increased the possibility of their being used in the interests of American strategy."

The opposition magazine, The New Times, cited one of the textbook's supporters and reviewers Anatoly Utkin as saying it was popular with some of the country's 'elite institutes' such as the academies of the Interior Ministry and the FSB security agency, successor to the Soviet-era KGB.

"This is a textbook in which patriotism serves as the guiding thread," Utkin, history professor at Moscow State University, told the magazine. "This textbook is filled with love of the motherland and patriotism, and it is important that the continuity between the Soviet and post-Soviet epochs can be seen there."

But the Public Chamber, a state-run government oversight body, last week criticised the book in a report. The book interpreted the country's history "in the spirit of radical nationalism" and simply distorted historical facts, it said.

Opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta also attacked the book, writing "The publication of this latest pro-Soviet, pro-Communist and pro-Stalin textbook is made possible because the crimes committed by Lenin and Stalin's party against humanity were never legally condemned."

Moscow State University's history faculty said in a statement that it would suspend the use of the book in classes. President Dmitry Medvedev, 45, has made attempts to distance himself from Soviet past, saying he had no desire to return to the Soviet Union.

His 57-year-old mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, by comparison, once famously described the collapse of the Soviet Union as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century.

Russian authorities have earlier approved history textbooks that sparked controversy by justifying Soviet leaders and praising the country's modern leadership.

In 2007, authorities approved a textbook that praised then President Putin and justified the imprisonment of former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was arrested in 2003 in an inquiry seen by critics as steered by the Kremlin.

Nicolas Miletitch / AFP / Expatica

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